Friday, October 31, 2008

Branson's 1st Halloween

Rob and I have talked a lot about how the holidays, especially this first year, will feel incomplete and lonely. As we listened to General Conference this October, we felt impressed with the message to find joy in our journey, even when the journey isn't easy. We knew that ultimately we had two choices: We could let these holidays be filled with anger, sadness, and empty memories...or we could be human and let it hurt, but still fill these holidays with treasured memories. We have decided that we would like to try and find an appropriate balance in our efforts to remember our son, keep his spirit alive, and allow ourselves to mourn our separation from him...but to also allow ourselves to feel the joy that comes from celebrating. We have a great desire to start some new family traditions this year that can be carried on throughout time as we welcome new members to our eternal family and teach them about their older brother.
We know that Branson especially would want us to find and share this joy in the journey. I'm sure that he knows how much his mom and dad enjoy decorating and preparing for holidays, and how much we looked forward to spending all the "firsts" with him...the 1st Christmas, the first Thanksgiving, the 1st Birthday, and the first fireworks show.
Well, tonight would have been Branson's first Halloween. This is just one of the many nights we had "dreamed" about spending with our son. Had Branson been with us tonight we would have dressed him up, carved pumpkins with him, and taken him around to friends and neighbors homes to show him off. However, since he's not with us...what could we do to make this "first" memorable and special to us?
Every time we went somewhere we would keep an eye out for just the right thing to help us face this difficult hurdle, something that would help us create a memory, a tradition that we could share with our future children. One afternoon while shopping, we found this adorable little pumpkin man. It was originally just the stand without the head. When we saw this, we immediately new that this would be the perfect thing. It just screamed "Branson" to us.
So tonight, we started a new family tradition, a tradition that will be carried on for many years to come. A tradition that we believe has the power to help us remember Branson, and still enjoy the festivities of the season. We bought one of those artificial, carvable pumpkins, and tonight we spent time carving this pumpkin for our little guy...didn't it turn out cute?
I can't think of any better way to spend our time tonight, the time we would have spent trick-or-treating with him. Time spent with my awesome husband and Branson's daddy, creating a physical reresentation of the love we have for our son. From now on, each year when we decorate, we'll pull out our little pumpkin man and remember Branson's first Halloween.
Happy Halloween buddy...we love you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Squishy

Tonight as I lie here in my bed, tears streaming down my face, I can see this picture across the room on my dresser. I love this picture because it stirs so many emotions inside my heart and soul. I love the way Branson looks in this picture, as though he is sleeping in the safety of my arms. I love the look on Rob's face, one of a proud father. I love the way that my eyes seem full of peace. I think that you can see many emotions in our, sorrow, pride, loss, misunderstanding, and peace.
Tonight as I look at this picture I feel very lonely and a little empty. I wish with all the energy of my being that I could be holding Branson in my arms again like that right now, that I could whisper words of love in his ear, and feel his spirit envelope mine again like it did that day. Instead, I lie here with aching arms and an empty cradle next to my bed.
I am grateful however for my "squishy". In this picture Branson is wrapped in a soft, blue blanket that we brought to the hospital with us that day. He spent most of the day swaddled in that blanket. He also spent time in a plush, brown blanket that he was wrapped in when the nurse took Branson from us. We were able to get both blankets back from the hospital...and they have now become our "squishies". I'm not sure where they got their name, but Rob and I each have one. We have slept with our squishies since the day we had Branson. Each night we both cuddle up to one and hold it, along with each other, as we fall asleep. I don't think that either one of us will ever forget the day we held our son in these blankets, for a short time they held the child that we have grown to love so intensely over the last year. They are a symbol of that love.
I find myself holding my squishy during the lonely times, as it is one of the very few "physical" things I have that was part of our short time with Branson. I think of all the tears that have been shed on it, all the loving words that have been whispered into it, all the heartfelt prayers that have been offered while holding it, and all the love that has been "squished" into it, and I am so grateful that it's mine to have forever.
I have wondered if there will come a day or a night that I won't feel the need to hold it close, but for now I can't imagine it. For now I'll hold it tight and share a few more tears with "my squishy".

Monday, October 27, 2008

Salt in the Wound

When I was talking to a friend recently who also had a stillborn child, she commented to me that sometimes the only way to heal from the emotional, mental, and spiritual scars is to pour salt into those open wounds.
As I know from experience, pouring salt on an open wound is a very literal way to help clean and heal an open, physical wound. It can be extremely painful and almost unbearable when the salt penetrates the wound as it burns and stings on contact. Salt has many healing properties and kills most germs on contact. Therefore, it would kill any bacteria in and around the wound.
As I began to think about my friends comment, I began to realize how much truth there was in her statement. It is so tempting to want to run away, or hide from all the hard things that I have to face each day...instead of meeting those hurdles head on and pouring the "stinging salt" into my open wounds. I decided at that moment that I would try, a little at a time, to face some of the hard things and see if the "salt" would have the same effect on my emotional, spiritual, and mental wounds that it has on physical wounds. I prayed to my Heavenly Father that as I put forth the effort, that the Holy Ghost might be able to assist in cleaning the wounds I would open and face.
It has been extremely hard at times to face these blessings, holding a newborn infant, hearing pregnant women wish their pregnancy was over, face people in public who aren't tender about our situation, the list could go on and on. However, as I have faced a few of my fears, and poured a small amounts of salt on my wounds, I have felt some healing begin to take place.
The other day I went over to a dear friends house. She had recently given birth to a little boy. I had delayed my visit for several weeks because I was afraid of what my emotional reaction might be. However, with my new determination, I decided I would try a little bit of that salt. That night as I snuggled her little boy to my chest, listened to his tiny breaths of air, and felt the warmth of his body in my heart did sting, the empty hole in my soul did ache, and that night when I left I did cry myself to sleep. The next day however, I found myself wanting to hold her little guy that moment, I paused and realized that although the salt had been painful, it had performed a small amount of healing.
I have a lot of healing that still needs to take place. I know that it can't come all at once or overnight. It is my hope that I can continue to find the courage to jump the hurdles that I face instead of passing them by saying, that I'll come back to them later. I know that through the healing power of the Holy Ghost and with some work on my part... peace and joy will at some time mend the open wounds of my heart. The love I have for Branson will forever be in my heart, his life permanently impressed upon my soul.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


"...for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made
you free.
Helaman 14:30

Today in Sacrament meeting the topic was on agency. This brought to my mind a remembrance of something Rob and I have discussed on a number of occasions since meeting our son. We believe that agency is one of the greatest gifts that we were granted from God by choosing to follow Jesus Christ. With this great gift comes great responsibility. We are free to choose and act for ourselves in every situation we face. We had agency in the pre-existence, and when we were presented with God's plan we choose to accept it. We saw that it was right and perfect. We saw the love that God had for us because he provided the opportunity to choose for ourselves.
We feel that this was no different for our Branson. We have felt very impressed that Branson was also presented with God's plan for him, and he was given a choice...A choice to follow God's plan to be with us for only a short time to gain his body for progression, and then return to him to perform a sacred mission... or to stay on this Earth with us at this time for a mortal experience. We know that Branson choose to follow God's plan for him.
We had a very special experience when Rob gave Branson his name and blessing. Rob said that it was revealed to him that had we had the opportunity to get to know our son on this Earth, we would have found "obedience" to be his strongest personality trait. The selfish, mortal mother in me is jealous at times that he "choose" not to be with us at this time because that is what I wanted most. However, when we put our "eternal perspective" in view, we are so grateful that Branson was valiant enough to do what was asked of him.
In reality, Branson was given knowledge and it has made him free. Branson was so selfless in making the right decision. We know that Branson choose to be with us eternaly, and that fills our temporary, mortal existence with hope. We know that his choice was best for him and our family eternally. We have developed a great sense of pride in knowing that our son followed God's plan for him. It is our prayer that as we are presented with truth and knowledge from God, that we too can use it to make us free. It is that knowledge, and that freedom that I find peace for now and a great sense of anticipation in knowing that we will get to, as Joseph Smith said, raise our son from his infancy in a perfect world, if we can but use that agency to make the choices that align with God's will and plan for us. It is in that freedom that we will be reunited with our son, in that freedom and love is where as a family, we can be together forever!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Missing my Little Guy

So today, I got to play full-time aunt! My sister-in-law Kim had a jewelry show to attend this weekend, and they gave me the opportunity to stay with them for a couple of nights to help her get ready for the show and then watch the kids for her today. I don't get to see my niece and nephews very often, so it was a lot of fun to be with them. We had a good time eating, bathing, reading books, doing hair, watching a movie, doing homework, and even taking a nap together. They are so cute, and I really enjoyed getting to do some of the "motherly" things with them today.
Well, tonight when Kim got home from her show, all the kids needed to bath and get ready for bed. Since Jed was gone, Kim and I did the tag team (which works out really nice). I got Grady and Halie bathed and dressed, and then Gavin wanted mommy to get him ready for bed. So while Kim got him ready, she asked if I wouldn't mind feeding Grady his bedtime bottle.
This is my favorite thing to do with babies... I love snuggling little ones close, wrapping them up, and feeding them. This is one of the things I really looked forward to doing with Branson in our recliner at night...rocking, feeding, singing, cuddling, just being together during those minutes each day. I've heard that feeding time is when a lot of the bonding occurs between mom and baby, and I was so excited for that. In fact, my arms have been so empty at times since we had Branson that they have literally ached. So I was grateful for the chance to snuggle little Grady close one more time. As the two of us sat on the couch tonight all alone, I could see a little bit of Branson in him, the big Anderson head, the cute little nose, the perfect little ears. As I longed for my son I couldn't help shedding tears of lonliness and feel the tug of my heartstrings as they ached for my little guy. As Grady reached up with his precious little hand to touch my nose while he ate, like many little babies do, I couldn't help but picture my little Branson and wish that I would have had that moment with him.
I am grateful to Kim for letting me have some time with just Grady to love him and feel the warmth of a baby in my arms. Kim, thank you for not worrying about leaving me with a baby, thank you for not telling me not to cry. It was nice to be able to shed tears and not have the "watchful, wondering" eyes upon me as I did so. It's what I needed tonight before I go back to my house and see my nursery still waiting. I miss my sweet Branson more than words can say!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


"Adam fell that man might be, and men are that they might have Joy."
2 Nephi 2:25

Since we had Branson I have thought a lot about this scripture. God wants us to experience joy. I've wondered, "Why then are we going through all of this pain, loneliness, and grief?" There have been "joyous" moments through having our son, but there have definitely been moments of great sorrow and days full of heartache as well.
I, like many others, read the book "The Secret". I believe that many of it's principles are true when aligned with gospel principles. However, because of what it teaches, I have repeatedly questioned myself if Rob and I "attracted" this experience. Was I too worried about my pregnancy, was I too concerned about the health of my little boy, did I fear the worst too often? This has really bothered me a lot and for a long time it put a lot of extra weight to the burdens we've carried. I felt like we must be responsible in some way for this "tragedy" that had occured, and that we must have done something to bring this experience upon us.
One day imparticular this was weighing especially heavy on my mind and heart. I went over to a friends house and confided my feelings and thoughts to her. Her response was simple, but has completely changed my perspective on this aspect of this experience. She said, "So what if you did attract this Natalie, look at what you've eternal, celestial son! Ya know Natalie, God is concerned with making us holy, more than he is concerned with making us happy."
I loved that! We talked about how Rob and I are experiencing earthly sorrow and mortal pain, but that if we had "attracted" this, we had attracted eternal joy! I felt the spirit so strong. I was amazed at the beauty of the truth she shared with me that day.
There are many things that bring us Earhtly happiness... but there are only a few things we do in this life that can bring us eternal joy, and having an eternal family is one of them! As I reflect now on this concept and the scripture about us experiencing joy, I can see that God has provided that joy for Rob and I in a very real way. I feel now that my concerns and worries about Branson during my pregnancy we probably very normal and motherly. I am thankful for the joyous eternal perspective I've gained. It helps see me through the hard days I face. It gives me hope. I can hardly imagine the joy we'll feel when we are reunited with our sweet are that they might have joy!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Perhaps one of the hardest parts of this experience has been being around people that act as though nothing has happened in our lives, that Branson was never apart of us. I am working on accepting and appreciating that these people probably just don't know what to say, or they think that in not mentioning him or talking about this experience that it will help us, save us from more heartache. However, it's a hard thing to accept when Branson is so real to us, such a huge part of who we are. It's not that I want people to medle around us in sorrow or unhappiness, but when people walk into our home for the first time since we were seperated from Branson, and they see our beautiful pictures of him up and see his nursery right off of our family room, it would be nice to just have them mention what a beautiful baby he is, or how cute his nursery is... just something so it doesn't feel as though there is an elephant in the room. Like I mentioned before, when I talk to people about it for the first time, the thing I love to talk about is him...not our heartache. I was thinking the other day if anyone would ever say "congratulations" to us on having a little boy...I don't know that day will ever come because of the heartache involved. However, at times I do feel like rejoicing that we have an eternal family, celebrating that we are parents.
Rob and I feel really strongly that this experiecne serves a purpose, that there are many things that we can learn from it. So as I feel these emotions and have these thoughts, I try to reflect and learn from each one. So as I was thinking about this, I started to think about God and his son Jesus Christ. I imagine that at times God may feel something similar as we, here on Earth, go about our lives as though "nothing has happened". That his son was never here, that he didn't atone for our sins, or give his life that we might live again. I wondered how many times I personaly have forgotten these life changing events, not used them for what purpose they were done, or have gone long periods of time without expressing gratitude to God that he let his son come, that he was and is real, and that the things he did while he was here are important to me.
While we have only faced a few people who have acted as though nothing has happened, millions of people every day go about life as though Jesus Christ never happened. It is my prayer that I might do better at remembering him every day, use the atonement to bring peace to my mind, and rejoice in the recsurection... that it may bring joy to my heart in knowing that because Christ is real, that he was here I will be reunited with my son for eternity!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Little Things

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." Robert Brault
I think that this is one of my all time favorite quotes. In the last few years, and especially the last few months, I have really felt that it is the little things that make life what it is. The little things happen every day, every moment. It is the little things that compile together over time that make up the "big things" in our past...our memories. I feel it is the little things in every relationship that lend to it being whole and complete. My husband Rob, for example, is so good at doing the little things for me. It is in the little things that he completes me. It is in the little things that I feel most loved, the most special, and the most important to him. It is in the simple emails from family members and the small messages in cards that we know how much people care. It is in the simpleness of life that we create the memories of yesterday.
Since the day we were separated from Branson I have thought a lot about the little things that made those nine months we had with him so special, so complete. It is the little things that we did for him each day during our time with him that bring me comfort in knowing that he knew he was loved. We said a "little" prayer for him each night, and it is in those simple words that we expressed our concern for his well being, the excitement we felt for his arrival, and the deep love we already felt for him as his parents. It was the small thoughts every second of the day, the mention of him in almost every conversation...long or short. It's in the few minutes I took each day to rest that I got to concentrate on his lively movements, and the amazing feeling of having another living person inside me. It is in the simple, small clothing that hang in his closet, the few small hours we spent painting his room, the few moments we spent picking out the fabric for his bedding, the time I spent organizing his diapers, wipes, and blankets, it is these simple acts of love for my son that made those nine months so sweet and memorable.
All the little things that other new parents might take for granted meant so much to us the day that we spent with Branson in the hospital. The simple act of bathing our son, dressing him, putting a diaper on him, and wrapping him up, are forever imprinted on our minds and hearts. His tiny little hand and foot prints are treasures that we hold dear. The few short hours that Rob and I got to hold our sweet boy and rub his little toes, have his fingers curl around ours, and snuggle him close to us are the small moments that we'll hold on to forever. And so, it is in the "little" things, the "small" moments that have created the "big" memories of the time we spent with our son.

Friday, October 17, 2008


This word has been on my mind a lot lately, "lost". It is a word used to describe this trial, "When we lost Branson." "We are so sorry about your loss." "What day did you find out you had lost Branson?" These are things that we have said to others, and that others have said to us. I wish we could find a better way of saying it though because in reality we haven't "lost" anything...we have found so much! We have found our sweet little boy, and the remembrance of his sweet spirit. We have discovered an intense love for our son that has awakened our souls. We have found and come to know another member of our eternal family. We have found a new perspective on the atonement, the love that God has for us, and the pain he must have felt as he "lost" his son to a much harsher crowd. We have found a greater appreciation for each other and the strength and faith that it takes to lean on each other during the difficult times. We have found within ourselves the ability to endure, and through the gift of the Holy Ghost to endure with faith. We have found a great motivation to do all we can to make it back to our son. So in our "loss" we have truly discovered so much!
I am not sure there is a better way to say it, or describe it. To me it makes more sense to say that we have been separated from our little boy for a short time. However, when talking to people it just doesn't seem to come out that way. I had an experience a short time after Branson's memorial service that fostered these feelings as well. We were visiting Rob's family, and we were all gathered in the family/dining area of there beautiful home. His brother had just returned from serving a mission and this was the first time that we had been able to spend time with him. His brother was standing in the kitchen and Rob and I were sitting at the dining table. As I watched him and listened to him talk, I turned to Rob and said: "It feels like Michael was never gone." It truly felt like he had never left and that time of separation from him had never occur ed. As I said and thought that, the strongest impression came to my mind. Words as clear as a person talking stated, "That is exactly how you will feel about Branson." This time on Earth seems like such a long time to us as we sojourn upon it, but I was reminded that day that in the eternal scheme of things this life is so short. I feel that when we are reunited with Branson that we will have a full remembrance of the time we spent with him in the premortal life, and that our separation from him will feel like it never happened. I am grateful to the Lord that he allowed me to gain a better eternal perspective that day, and I look forward to the day that I can turn to Rob and say, "It feels like we never left Branson!"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kind Words

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echos are truly endless." Mother Teresa

Today I am grateful for kind words. As Rob and I go through the trial of loosing our son, we have been blessed to have great family and friends beside us. I am not sure that anyone will know how much the power of love and support we have felt has done for us. Amongst the many cards, letters and phone calls, I seem to recall the simple, loving, kind words most often. "Just wanted you to know we care," or "We are thinking of you and your beautiful son," or "You are in our prayers." Simple, but kind words that have helped so much. It was and is the visitors and phone calls that are short, but sincere that I don't dread answering. I appreciate the people who just listen at times, and understand at other times that I don't want to talk at all. It's the people that want to hear about our sweet Branson that I love to talk to, "Tell me about Branson, how big was he? What did he look like? What feature do you remember most? What was your favorite moment with him?" These are just a few of the things I love to talk about. So as I reflect on the kind words that "echo" in my mind, I am grateful for all the awesome people in my life who love me, Rob, and Branson. Thank you!